Basset Hound terminology

Early Basset Hound teminology

The word Basset was, and still is, a French catch-all phrase to describe any breed of dog that was lower than 16 inches / 40.6cm at the shoulders, as Basset means low or low-lying in French.  When Chien Basset was translated into English it became the Basset Hound, but still meaning any strain of low dog.  

Early authors writing on the subject would therefore use Basset Hound, even though they were not neccessarily referring to the modern Basset Hound, as was the terminology of their day.

To illustrate this point, in Cassell's Illustrated Book of the Dog (1881) the author writes:

As in Germany anything with crooked legs is called a Dachshund, so in France for the same reason 'the anything' is called a Chien Basset, for the simple reason that people do not know better.  In England it is the same; the word Terrier is good enough for the whole race, whether pure or mongrel.

The word 'Basset' is such a large word, that to ask a French sportsman for a Basset would be precisely as putting the same question to him, substituting the word 'horse' for 'Basset'. You might want a cart-horse, a cob, a hack, a racehorse, etc.

The French, in order to describe the various strains, divided their Chiens Bassets into two main strains:
  1. Bassets a poil ras (smooth coated) or
  2. Bassets a poil dur (rough coated)
  3. Half Griffon (half rough-, half smooth coated)
and further sub-divided the smooth and rough coated strains into three groups:  
  1. A jambes droites (straight fore legs)
  2. A jambes demi-torses (partially crooked fore legs) or 
  3. A jambes torses (wholly crooked fore legs)
This gives us nine different varieties of Bassets, that covers many breeds, such as the Basset Hound, the Dachshound or the Terrier. 

Using this terminology, the modern Basset Hound could therefore be referred to in French as Chiens Bassets a poil ras de jambes torses (Smooth coated Basset Hounds with wholly crooked fore legs).

Terminology on this site

In order to provide clarification, we will refer to the various strains simply as “Basset”, unless we are referring to a specific breed such as the Basset Artesién Normand or the Basset Hound.

Likewise, when quoting from books on the subject of Bassets we will bracket (Hound) so as to show that it is not the modern Basset Hound that is being referred to.